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How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups on Linux

High availability is a critical component of database operations – It protects companies from lost revenue when entry to their data sources and critical business applications is disrupted. There are various high availability options available for SQL Server.

For this blog, we will demonstrate how to deploy Always On availability groups (AG) for Microsoft SQL Server on Linux.

Steps for Installing Always On Availability Groups

So, what is Always on availability groups? Always On is a high availability and disaster restoration resolution that capitalizes on the availability of a set of user databases. An availability group helps a failover environment for a discrete set of user databases, known as availability databases, that failover together. An availability group helps a set of read-write primary databases and 1 to 8 sets of corresponding secondary databases.

Let’s start with understanding the architecture we will be using. The virtual machine’s details are as follows:

Hostname IP Address OS SQL Server Version Role
mssql1 10.10.0.51 Ubuntu 20.04 2019 Primary
mssql2 10.10.0.52 Ubuntu 20.04 2019 Replica
mssql 3 10.10.0.53 Ubuntu 20.04 2019 Replica

Update the Hosts File

The first prerequisite is updating the hosts file in all the virtual machines with the hostnames and IP Address of all servers that will participate in the availability group.

To update /etc/hosts, the following script lets you edit:

sudo vi /etc/hosts

The following example shows /etc/hosts on mssql1 after adding mssql2 and mssql3:

How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

Enable Always On Availability Groups

To enable Always On Availability Groups on each node, run the following script and then restart SQL Server.

sudo /opt/mssql/bin/mssql-conf set hadr.hadrenabled  1

sudo systemctl restart mssql-server

Create Authentication Certificate on the Primary Node

Microsoft SQL Server on Linux uses certificates to authenticate communication between the mirroring endpoints. Therefore, we need to create a certificates and a master key, then back up the certificates and secure it with a password. Connect to the primary Microsoft SQL Server instance and run the following T-SQL script:

CREATE MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = '[email protected]$7d';

CREATE CERTIFICATE dbm_certificate WITH SUBJECT = 'dbm';

BACKUP CERTIFICATE dbm_certificate

   TO FILE = '/var/opt/mssql/data/dbm_certificate.cer'

   WITH PRIVATE KEY (

           FILE = '/var/opt/mssql/data/dbm_certificate.pvk',

           ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = '[email protected]$7d'

       );

At this point, your primary node has a certificates at /var/opt/mssql/data/dbm_certificate.cer and a private key at var/opt/mssql/data/dbm_certificate.pvk. Copy these 2 files to the same location on the replica servers. Use the mssql user, or give permission to the mssql user to entry these files.

For example, the following command copies the files to the mssql2 node on the source server. Replace the mssql2 values with the hostnames of the SQL Server instances that will host the replicas:

cd /var/opt/mssql/data

scp dbm_certificate.* [email protected]:/var/opt/mssql/data/

On each goal node, give permission to the mssql user to entry the certificates:

cd /var/opt/mssql/data

chown mssql:mssql dbm_certificate.*

Note: Ensure that the master key and certificates’s location are the same on all replicas.

Create Authentication Certificate on the Replica Node

Now that we have the authentication certificates and the master key from the primary node, we need to create a master key and a certificates from the same. Run the following T-SQL script on all replica nodes: 

CREATE MASTER KEY ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'Z9Y<)2jJ';

CREATE CERTIFICATE dbm_certificate

    FROM FILE = '/var/opt/mssql/data/dbm_certificate.cer'

    WITH PRIVATE KEY (

    FILE = '/var/opt/mssql/data/dbm_certificate.pvk',

    DECRYPTION BY PASSWORD = '[email protected]$7d'

            );

Note: The decryption password is the same password that you used to create the .pvk file in the previous step.

Create Mirroring Endpoints on all Replicas

To communicate between the server instances that are host availability replicas, Microsoft SQL Server uses mirroring endpoints. 

A mirroring endpoint uses the TCP/IP protocol to transmit messages from primary and secondary replicas and listens on a unique TCP port number.

Run the following script to create an endpoint on Primary and Secondary nodes:

CREATE ENDPOINT [AG_mssql1]

    AS TCP (LISTENER_PORT = 5022)

    FOR DATABASE_MIRRORING (

    ROLE = ALL,

    AUTHENTICATION = CERTIFICATE dbm_certificate,

ENCRYPTION = REQUIRED ALGORITHM AES

);

ALTER ENDPOINT [AG_mssql1] STATE = STARTED;

Note: The TCP port on the firewall should be open for the listener port.

Create Availability Group

Once the mirroring points have been created, you can create an availability group. There are 2 ways you can create an availability group – the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio Availability Group Wizard or using T-SQL. In our case, we are going to use a T-SQL script. The Availability Group requires at least 3 replicas to ensure high availability with automated failover. This T-SQL script has the following variables that we need first to understand:

  1. CLUSTER_TYPE = EXTERNAL – This specifies that an external cluster entity manages the Availability Group. Pacemaker is an example of an external cluster entity.

  2. FAILOVER_MODE = EXTERNAL – This specifies that the replica interacts with an external cluster supervisor, like Pacemaker. This variable is determined by cluster_type.

  3. SEEDING_MODE = AUTOMATIC – This specifies whether Microsoft SQL Server will routinely create the database on each secondary node.

Run the following T-SQL on the SQL Server instance that hosts the primary replica:

CREATE AVAILABILITY GROUP [sql_ag1]

     WITH (DB_FAILOVER = ON, CLUSTER_TYPE = EXTERNAL)

     FOR REPLICA ON                                    

         N'<mssql1>' 

        WITH (

         ENDPOINT_URL = N'tcp://<mssql1>:<5022>',

         AVAILABILITY_MODE = SYNCHRONOUS_COMMIT,

         FAILOVER_MODE = EXTERNAL,

         SEEDING_MODE = AUTOMATIC

         ),

         N'<mssql2>' 

       WITH ( 

         ENDPOINT_URL = N'tcp://<mssql2>:<5022>', 

         AVAILABILITY_MODE = SYNCHRONOUS_COMMIT,

         FAILOVER_MODE = EXTERNAL,

         SEEDING_MODE = AUTOMATIC

         ),

     N'<mssql3>'

         WITH( 

         ENDPOINT_URL = N'tcp://<mssql3>:<5022>', 

         AVAILABILITY_MODE = SYNCHRONOUS_COMMIT,

         FAILOVER_MODE = EXTERNAL,

         SEEDING_MODE = AUTOMATIC

         );



ALTER AVAILABILITY GROUP [sql_ag1] GRANT CREATE ANY DATABASE;

The script creates an Availability Group with 3 synchronous replicas.

Setting up Always On Availability Groups with ClusterControl 

The steps above to set up Always On may seem tedious and susceptible to human error. The fine news is that ClusterControl has a fail-safe resolution available in ClusterControl V2. The first step is updating the /etc/hosts in the ClusterControl node and the other nodes in the cluster. 

The below example shows an updated /etc/hosts on cc-focal (ClusterControl node):

1647631904 678 How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

Once the hosts file is updated, log into ClusterControl V2, and on the landing page, click on “Create Service” as proven below:

1647631904 241 How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

On the service launch wizard page, click on “Create a Database Cluster,” which directs us to the deploy service page, and click on the “SQL Server” option. On the deploy SQL Server Service page, the Microsoft SQL Server version is 2019 by default. You can either name your cluster or let ClusterControl generate 1 for you. In this instance, the cluster name is “sql_ag_test,” as proven below:

1647631904 18 How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

Next, is setting up SSH Configuration. We recommend using passwordless sudo for the SSH user. In our scenario, “vagrant” user will be used as proven below:

1647631904 777 How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

Note: Depending on whether your environment is existing (standalone servers) or new, will dictate the position of the “install software” button.

On the “Node Configuration” page, you can create an Admin Username and Password as per the password policy link on the same page. Below is an example:

1647631905 363 How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

Finally, we get to add the nodes, and unlike how we usually add nodes in ClusterControl using the IP_address, we will use the hostnames of the nodes as proven below:

1647631906 8 How to Set Up SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

Once done, it directs to the preview page. After affirmation that the configuration is correct, the deployment process begins. You can follow up on the process in the activity list. This job log will show the action being executed and its status (success/fail). ClusterControl will install Microsoft SQL Server 2019, enable Always On, create an authentication certificates and mirroring endpoints on all nodes, and create an availability group. 

Adding a Database to the Availability Group

Before adding the database to the availability group, the database should pass the following conditions:

  1. The database should be in the FULL restoration mode.

  2. The database should have a FULL log backup.

On the Primary Microsoft SQL instance, run this T-SQL script to create and backup a database called test1:

CREATE DATABASE [test1];

ALTER DATABASE [test1] SET RECOVERY FULL;

BACKUP DATABASE [test1] 

   TO DISK = N'/var/opt/mssql/data/test1.bak';

On the same instance run the following T-SQL script to add test1 to the availability group s9s_ag1 (the AG name is in the job log):

ALTER AVAILABILITY GROUP [s9s_ag1] ADD DATABASE [test1];

Run the following query on each secondary SQL Server replica, to see if the test1 database was created and is synchronized:

SELECT * FROM sys.databases WHERE name="test1";

GO

SELECT DB_NAME(database_id) AS 'database', synchronization_state_desc FROM sys.dm_hadr_database_replica_states;

Wrapping Up

SQL Server Always On availability groups is a resolution for high availability and disaster restoration, with failover to a secondary database. With Always On, there’s no need to manually replicate data between databases and worry about downtime, which makes it an excellent resolution for reaching high availability. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to install Always On, but if you nonetheless have concerns about setting up and managing availability groups, don’t overlook that ClusterControl offers support for AGs, and you can evaluate ClusterControl for free for 30 days.

If you’re working with SQL Server yet want to see what other high availability strategies are available, check out this overview of High Availability Options for SQL Server Linux.

However you choose to implement high availability strategies, be sure to follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn, and subscribe to our publication for the latest news and best practices for managing your open-source-based database infrastructure.
 



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